Whether it’s a glass of refreshing milk, a decadent ice cream or a creamy yogurt, we enjoy many different dairy products for the taste, their nutritional value and other reasons. However, there’s yet another reason we can enjoy dairy as well: producing dairy is more sustainable than ever.
Dairy farmers in Connecticut have joined those across the country in their commitment to enhancing farming practices and making investments that are benefiting our environment and their cows. In fact, each gallon of milk produced today requires considerably less land and water than years ago all with a significantly smaller carbon footprint.
Dairy farmers know there is more work to be done and are not resting on their laurels. Here are some ways dairy farmers are practicing sustainability every day right here in Connecticut.
1- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions:
Dairy farmers are part of the solution for reducing greenhouse gases and have been implementing strategies to do so for many years. This is leading to the industry’s Net Zero Initiative, which is a commitment to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.
2- Reduced water usage:
Water conservation is another priority for dairy farmers to be more sustainable, and optimizing water usage while maximizing recycling are also part of the Net Zero Initiative. For instance, some farms capture rainwater and utilize recycled water for various uses. Another practice is preventing nutrient runoff and water pollution from manure and other farm practices.
3- Energy-efficient practices:
The dairy industry as a whole has been adopting renewable energy resources that include solar and wind power as well as other energy-efficient practices to reduce its carbon footprint. Some Connecticut dairy farms produce enough solar energy to power functions on the farm and can even add power back into the grid to power homes.
4- Responsible land use:
The amount of usable land for dairy farming is less than it was decades ago, and thus farmers are being more efficient and more effective with the land they have than ever before. By implementing practices that promote soil health and biodiversity, such as rotational grazing, cover cropping, conservation tillage and others, farmers are not only helping to protect the land, but they are also reducing impact and reducing costs.
5- Improved manure management:
As part of the efforts to reduce gas emissions, dairy farmers are investing in technologies that reduce methane emissions from manure and promote nutrient recovery. In addition, separating the solids from manure from the liquids provides additional ways to recycle manure, such as for cow bedding, creating compost, or using the solid to create innovative new products.
6- Taking care of their cows:
Dairy farmers understand that happy and healthy cows produce more milk and have further enhanced animal welfare practices. From investing in “fit bit-style” health and feeding monitors to providing clean and comfortable barns for sleeping sleep to investing in robotic milking systems, dairy farms are adapting new and better practices for the benefit of their herds.
The commitment to sustainability goes beyond these examples and is part of the lifestyle of today’s modern dairy farmer. More than 90 percent of dairy farms in Connecticut are family owned, which further strengthens a commitment to the environment and their cows that is passed on from generation to generation.